Juventus clinch Coppa Italia crown after late win against Lazio
The Stadio Olimpico was awash with black and white as Juventus claimed their first Coppa Italia in 20 years, following a hard-fought 2-1 win over Lazio, though the Old Lady needed extra time to defeat the determined Eagles.
With a dream domestic double added to the bulging trophy cabinet, Juve now have their sights set on a historic treble, yet upcoming Champions League final opponents Barcelona will have been heartened by this often laboured display.
Lazio played Serie A champions Juventus at their own game from the off, replicating the Turin team’s oft-used big-game tactic of three at the back, with dangerous attacking duo Felipe Anderson and Antonio Candreva given free roles in support of lone poacher Miroslav Klose.
Stefano Pioli’s tactic worked to great effect, as the threat of Anderson and Candreva’s craft and quick feet forced usually formidable midfield partners Paul Pogba and Arturo Vidal further back, stifling the centre of the pitch.
The Eternal City outfit began aggressively, though despite an abundance of attacking riches on display it was defenders from both sides who made the difference.
Just three minutes in, Rome-born midfielder Danilo Cataldi’s free kick caused havoc, allowing stand-in Eagles skipper Stefan Radu to head past Juventus cup keeper Marco Storari unchallenged.
Yet it took Massimiliano Allegri’s men just eight minutes to form an emphatic response, as Andrea Pirlo’s perfect long-range set piece was headed back across Lazio’s box, eventually falling to centre back stalwart Giorgio Chiellini, who finished his low volley with aplomb to equalise.
The Old Lady still struggled to get their passing game going, however, due to Lazio’s constant pressing. This will surely be a worry for Allegri leading up to Berlin, as Barca’s front three are perhaps the best at pressuring their opponents into error.
Brazilian starlet Anderson made impressive runs from deep either side of the break, even riding a tough challenge from Chiellini, but ultimately his efforts petered out, summing up the Eagles’ often toothless attacking game.
Both clubs became increasingly cautious in the second half of normal time, fluffing openings in the final third due to indecision, with Basque forward Fernando Llorente and Anderson the chief culprits.
Passmaster Pirlo looked the most likely player to unlock Lazio’s stubborn defence, picking out both Stephan Lichtsteiner and substitute Alessandro Matri in the closing stages, only to see both attempts ruled offside.
Tired legs eventually led to a more open game as extra time got underway, and it was the fresh legs of Filip Djordjevic that threatened first, as the Serbian sharpshooter unleashed a stunning strike that unluckily and incredibly cannoned off the inside of both goal posts.
It seemed lady luck was not be on Lazio’s side, as Juvetus inevitably took the lead in the 96th minute through Italy attacker Matri, who seized his second chance, slotting home Pirlo’s defence-splitting pass after somewhat of an initial scramble to control the ball.
The Eagles continued to toil but could not muster a reply, as Juve comfortably soaked up Lazio’s late pressure, evidently much more at ease when fending off their opponents. Perhaps Barca should not read too much into this tough triumph, then, as being tagged as underdogs seems to suit Juventus (11/5 to lift the Champions League and complete a tremendous treble) to a tee.